SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Supporters of an initiative to ban some semi-automatic rifles and pistols, along with high-capacity magazines, are stopping efforts to pass the measure this year but plan an effort to get it onto the ballot in 2020.
At a news conference Thursday, backers of the initiative conceded that a state Supreme Court ruling the day before had introduced a delay that would push Initiative Petition 43 past a key deadline, stopping it from qualifying for the 2018 ballot.
“We are now working on several potential measures for 2020,” said Mark Knutson, a Portland pastor and one of three sponsors of the IP 43.
The initiative sought to ban semi-automatic rifles with certain features like pistol grips, semi-automatic pistols with rifle-like features, some semi-automatic shotguns, and magazines capable of holding 10 bullets or more.
The topic has become the subject of fiery debate amid a flood of school shootings around the country, many of them carried out with semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifles. Supporters introduced the Oregon measure in the wake of a shooting at a Florida High School.
But Oregon’s high court ruled on Wednesday that there were problems with the official description of the initiative drafted by its supporters. The court said it had to be revised, triggering a legally required delay of five business days and meaning that in a best-case scenario, organizers would have less than 24 hours to gather the more than 88,000 signatures required to qualify the measure for the 2018 ballot.
The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups had opposed the measure. They filed the legal challenges that ultimately succeeded in delaying both IP 43 and another proposal to tighten gun-storage rules.
Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the NRA, called the Wednesday ruling encouraging, and criticized the initiative’s categorization of some guns as “assault weapons.”
Whether the initiative would be split into multiple proposals in 2020 appeared to be an open question Thursday.
Knutson acknowledged after the news conference that the breadth of version filed for the 2018 race - covering rifles, pistols and ammunition magazines - made it challenging to summarize in an official 15-word ballot title, and the court in its Wednesday ruling specifically called out the issue.
Speaking after the news conference, Knutson said the initiative would likely be re-filed as a single measure.
But Penny Okamoto, director of Ceasefire Oregon, a group that backed the measure as part of a coalition, said the option of splitting it into two separate petitions - one limiting magazine capacity, and one focused on certain semi-automatic guns - had also been discussed.
Okamoto said her group is also working on drafting legislation for the 2019 legislative session that would ban magazines holding over five rounds of ammunition.
Knutson said he hoped to re-file within months and to begin gathering signatures as soon as the end of the year.
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